Vanda didn’t appear the next day, but the day after. She found Wilom in their usual tea shop. In a moment, they were above ground, then there was a brief impression of the city, and then the countryside. They weren’t walking for very long before they arrived at the lighthouse. Vanda pulled Wilom around the side of the tower, and suddenly they were standing in the lighthouse keeper’s living room, where he was just putting on the kettle. Continue reading
Vanda took Wilom immediately to the little run-down shack where the people from the tunnels were currently living. It was larger than Wilom had expected – he had expected a decrepit farm house, but this actually seemed to be an old barn or storehouse. Through the window, he could see fluttering fabric. A makeshift curtain. Continue reading
Vanda dragged Wilom by the hand, a little faster than probably necessary. Wilom had to jog to keep up, feeling the blood pulsing in his fingertips from her grip. Continue reading
The morning passed quietly. Wilom once again had the house to himself, and he put off leaving the kitchen bench and the cup of coffee Marc made for him for as long as possible. When he finally worked up the energy to leave the house, he found that Vanda was waiting for him. Continue reading
When Wilom woke up the next morning, Jilli and Marc were playing with toys in the living room. He poured coffee from the pot Marc had left out and watched them for a moment, until Marc looked up. Continue reading
After several increasingly hazy walks home, Wilom had to concede that the unease in the back of his mind was probably, finally, worth the trip to the ferryman. Continue reading
In the morning, Cathlin seemed to have forgotten their awkward conversation, or at least had not held Wilom’s answers against him. Continue reading
As Wilom ate dinner with Cathlin, Jilli and Marc, their soup was interrupted by a knock on the door. Wilom immediately went over, in his mind, where he’d put his documents. Continue reading
Wilom had explained that he had the day off to avoid needing to perform his usual morning charade, and stayed in bed despite the tempting smell of coffee and toast. He was fairly certain that he’d gone straight back to sleep, but he must only have dozed, because he distinctly remembered Marc leaving for work and Cathlin leaving to drop Jilli off with a friend and then to go to her own work.
He woke when he finally couldn’t ignore the sun through the window any longer, even with a forearm across his eyes to block the light. He groaned and got up.
The coffee that Marc had left him was cold. He took a few sips and made a face. He tried to stick it out for the sake of waking up, but halfway through, he tipped the rest of the cup down the sink and made toast instead.
As he sat the kitchen table, suddenly having second thoughts about the Ferryman’s Knowledge and how he’d been using it. Conversations he only barely remembered, saying things without being able to think it through first …
The ferryman had always taught him not to assume, but he’d let the Ferryman’s Knowledge reduce all his actions, basically, to assumptions. What else had he assumed, overlooked, just because he’d trusted in the ferryman’s power? Vanda was always so sure that the ferryman was deceiving him, and he’d agreed it was possible, but he’d never really considered what that might mean. He needed to learn how to control the Ferryman’s Knowledge, before he got too reliant on it.
Out on the street, two children ran by. They were playing hookey from school, but they did it with a glee and a nervous fervour that told Wilom that this was probably their first time, and they probably wouldn’t do it again once they faced the consequences.
Though the information was unexpected, now that he wasn’t trying to figure out what he knew and how he knew it, it seemed much more natural. The knowledge wasn’t edging things out, it wasn’t invading his mind, it was simply there, to be summoned when he needed it.
He took a few coins from his desk and the door key and nothing else, and went for a walk. A coffee, he decided, without any letters to write, without any distractions.
Wilom let his feet take him to the coffee shop, seeing what he could pick up along the way.
The man down the road is rushing because he is late to work. He is nervous because he is never late to work and he believes he may ruin his reputation. The other man has a half-day off, and he is out to buy morning tea for himself and his wife. He is looking forward to spending time with her, as they so rarely get these moments anymore.
At the café, Wilom greeted the waitress by name. She is glad that he had remembered her name, and surprised. She hoped one day to have regular customers, but she did not expect it so soon. She wonders what she did to deserve such special attention, and she cannot work it out.
Wilom, through the window near his seat, watched the crowds go by for a while, waiting for the waitress to come back and take his order.
When she arrived, though, she put a cup of tea in front of him.
“Black, no sugar,” she said. She is reciting an order, and wants your confirmation.
“Yes, that’s right, thank you,” Wilom said.
The waitress left. Wilom looked down at his cup. It was only after a moment of thought that he remembered actually having ordered it.
It felt strange to be drinking tea without Vanda there with him, but it was definitely a tea sort of day more than a coffee sort of day. He sipped at the cup of tea – this café used tea bags rather than loose teas, and they came in a single mug rather than a teapot, but Wilom didn’t mind. It wasn’t, all things considered, a bad cup of tea.
He let his mind wander to the people walking the streets outside.
That woman is taking her son to buy a dog. He thinks they are simply going to the store. She thinks he will like a dog because he has been lonely at school, though he has not asked for a dog.
The girl has been sent home from school because her sister is sick and she must purchase medicine and bring it home. Her sister is sick often, and she is not worried. She feels that she should not be missing class, and wonders if her friend will let her borrow his notes. She feels bad that she is cheating, but she thinks, under the circumstances, she can be forgiven.
The man is taking an early lunch. He is worried about his job. He thinks if he has lunch now and clears his head, he might be able to give his full attention for the rest of the day.
Wilom looked down and realised his cup was empty. He considered getting another, but he was feeling a little dizzy, like waking up after a nap that had gone longer than expected. He shook himself and stood up to pay for his tea. Time to head home, he thought.
She is getting ready for the end of her shift and hopes nothing happens until then. She doesn’t want anything to make her shift more difficult.
And then Wilom was walking down the street outside. He stopped and looked around, then put his hand in his pocket. Nobody was chasing him. He’d paid for his tea, obviously. The number and kind of coins in his pocket confirmed that he’d not only paid for his tea, but he’d done it with exactly the correct change.
He remembered now – vaguely. He’d noted her relief when he’d found the last coin to make it correct, the little gladness that she hadn’t had to search through the drawer and add up the change at the end of a long shift. He’d looked for the right change specifically for that reason.
A shiver went up his spine. He didn’t like this feeling, this stop-and-start perception.
He hurried back to Marc’s house, trying very hard not to look directly at anyone on the street. He wanted to at least make it home and remember everything that happened on the way.
Wilom adjusted his sleeves. The shirt was new and stiff, and he regretted that his others were all in the wash. Continue reading